Trial News 3
(Autumn 1996)

This information was supplied by the McLibel Support Campaign

Trial News 1 & Trial News 2 also available


The McLibel Trial is a mammoth legal battle between the $30 billion a year McDonald's Corporation and two London Greenpeace supporters (Helen Steel & Dave Morris). The trial began in June 1994 and became the longest civil case in British history in December 1995. It is expected to last until the end of 1996. McDonald's are suing Steel & Morris for alleged libel over a 6-sided Factsheet produced by London Greenpeace, entitled "What's Wrong With McDonald's? - Everything they don't want you to know", which McDonald's allege they distributed in 1989/90.

Approximately 180 witnesses from the UK and around the world have given evidence on all the issues in the case, namely:

  • The connection between multinational companies like McDonald's, cash crops and starvation in the third world.

  • The responsibility of corporations such as McDonald's for damage to the environment, including destruction of rainforests.

  • The wasteful and harmful effects of the mountains of packaging used by McDonald's and other companies.

  • McDonald's promotion and sale of food with a low fibre, high fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar content, and the links between a diet of this type and the major degenerative diseases in western society, including heart disease and cancer.

  • McDonald's exploitation of children by its use of advertisements and gimmicks to sell unhealthy products.

  • The barbaric way that animals are reared and slaughtered to supply products for McDonald's.

  • The lousy conditions that workers in the catering industry are forced to work under, and the low wages paid by McDonald's.

  • McDonald's hostility towards trade unions.

Here follows a summary of some of the evidence from the trial given between September 1995 and July 1996. (N.B. Due to lack of time, this Trial News is not as comprehensive as we would have wished. We hope to produce a further, more detailed, Trial News at the end of the trial.)



As reported in Trial News 2, McDonald's were allowed to amend their claim on diet and ill-health. The Defendants protested that the company have used legal tricks to shift the goalposts after the strength of the Defence case became clear. There have been constant legal arguments and controversy about this section of the evidence throughout the case. Because of this, the whole issue was re-opened and expert witnesses called or re-called. Further evidence was given by Dr Arnott and Professor Naismith for McDonald's, and by Professor Crawford and Geoffrey Cannon for the Defence.

Professor Colin Campbell from the USA also gave evidence for the Defence. He is the chair of Dietary Prevention of Cancer Worldwide, a highly distinguished international committee of scientists set up to look into and evaluate the links between diet and cancer. In his view, supported by his own research work, "a high fat, low fibre diet is causal in the development of a wide range of cancer and cardiovascular diseases". Further, "even small additions of foods of animal origin to an otherwise all plant diet causes the occurrence of these diseases". He agreed with the World Health Organisation executive report which stated that "the entire population of most affluent countries shows a high-risk profile". But most importantly, he was convinced that these serious diseases are largely preventable by dietary means.

The Defendants also called Jane Brophy, an NHS health promotion adviser to health professionals. She referred to some of the literature which health professionals are now expected to make available to the public regarding the need for a healthy diet in order to avoid chronic diseases. She concluded: "Most people in health education know that a typical McDonald's meal does not comply with current healthy eating recommendations and that is why their [McDonald's] literature states that the two golden rules for healthy eating are 'variety' and 'moderation' - vague terms which do not help the average person choose a health promoting diet."


Alistair Fairgrieve (McDonald's UK Marketing Services Manager) returned to court to face cross-examination by the Defendants (see Trial News 1). He stated that the company now had 650 million customer visits per year. He said "the entire eating out market is in expansion", meaning that more and more people are eating less meals at home.

According to McDonald's own figures from the USA, 77% of customer visits to their stores (ie. 3 out of every 4 people) are from 'heavy users' who eat at McDonald's an average of 3 times a week. Mr Fairgrieve agreed that such customers were the ones most likely to also eat at other fast food outlets - a major concern in this trial due to the links between a junk food diet and ill-health. In the UK, company-sponsored research showed that only 38% of the population (approx. 22 million people) actually visited a McDonald's store in any year (contrary to the impression given by McDonald's), and something between 2% and 4% of their total UK customer base (ie. between half and one million people daily - a substantial proportion of their visitors) ate at McDonald's 'several times a week'. The Defendants believe this clearly shows that the company is dependent on creating a 'loyal' clientele, which negates their pretence to be advising their customers to 'balance' their diet.

Mr Fairgrieve was questioned about a survey carried out for McDonald's which reported that "McDonald's staff were described as 'always frantic' by 40% of customers". In a section summarising people's perceptions of McDonald's, the food was described as "thought to be high in calories and is not rated well as being healthy or made with natural ingredients".

The same survey revealed that "McDonald's is more likely to be chosen than its competitors in response to kids pestering". Mr Fairgrieve said that the company had known this for several years and added that "this is broadly a positive from our perspective. It is the kind of thing you just tick off as you go through. It is like 'Well, that is OK' "

Questioned about personal appearances of the Ronald McDonald clown, Mr Fairgrieve stated "Quite simply, the idea of having a personal appearance programme for Ronald McDonald is to bring the McDonald's experience as seen in the advertising fully alive in the restaurant with a physical realisation of the character and positioning we have in the advertising".

Mr Fairgrieve was also asked about a section in the McDonald's UK Annual Review entitled "Growing up together". It stated: "McDonald's involvement with schools in the past has been primarily through our local restaurants. However our support for education took a major step forward in 1993 with the creation of McDonald's education service".... "We view every young person not only as a customer but as a possible employee, manager, supplier or business leader in tomorrow's Britain". The Review went on to talk about links between schools and businesses and gave an example of Berkeley Infants School in Scunthorpe, "The school then based its autumn term work on McDonald's. This included maths, history, music, dance and language classes. Three McDonald's 'restaurants' were set up and children as young as four started to develop and understanding of business". Mr Fairgrieve said that this came under the umbrella of the Public Relations Department.

McDonald's often offers to provide 'free' or cheap orange squash for local events such as school fetes, supposedly as a community minded gesture. The company 'Operations Manual' revealed the true purpose of this "orange bowl programme". It stated: "It builds goodwill", "If your orange bowl does not have a McDonald's logo and your restaurant address you are losing the opportunity to market your store" and "Do not miss any opportunity to publicise the donation of the orange bowl by McDonald's". Mr Fairgrieve stated that the orange bowl programme "inherently creates publicity... if you have 200 people at a local fete and they see McDonald's helping at the local fete that is inherently publicity". The Operations Manual went on to say "Much of what we do in our community should be recognised. To increase the awareness of McDonald's community activities the media is an important resource. Contact the media when sponsoring school programmes, fund raising or other community events"


McDonald's has been enmeshed in controversy over its global promotion of beef consumption. Despite the huge damage that cattle ranching has unquestionably inflicted on tropical forests, the burger giant currently spends $1.8 billion annually on advertising and promotions, and is the world's largest user of beef. The Corporation has had to recognise such damage as far back as in 1982, but has tried to fob off its critics with claims that around the world they have never used any "meat from cattle raised in former rainforests" (as stated in public announcements and official private letters).

What 'Policy'?

Ray Cesca, the Director of Global Purchasing and Worldwide Trade of the McDonald's Corporation, gave evidence that he had drafted McDonald's rainforest Policy Statement. He said the policy (not to use "ex-rainforest or recently deforested rainforest land") had taken 4-6 weeks to write in 1989, although he claimed it had existed 'verbally' since the company opened its first store in 1955(!). He said that " 'recently deforested rainforest' means since we decided to open a restaurant in a specific country" and agreed with Mr Rampton QC that "in theory, some rainforest might be cut down a year or six months before [McDonald's] made that decision, cattle put on it, and [McDonald's] could, in theory, take cattle from that land". (NB. Previously the company has defined 'recently deforested' as "a significant number of years", "within 10 years" (prior to 1989) and "within 25 years" (since 1989).

Mr Cesca finally admitted that before 1989 there were "just discussions", but he claimed the company had always cared about the environment, asserting "we wouldn't do anything that is detrimental to the environment, period". The Defendants asked how it was possible to run a multinational company which produced masses of packaging and relied on extensive cattle ranching, and fleets of lorries to transport goods, etc without causing damage to the environment.

Social & Environmental Damage

Sue Branford, a Brazil specialist and expert regarding the social and economic forces impacting upon the Amazon region, testified for the Defendants. She criticised the cattle ranching industry for causing environmental damage, and for causing the violent displacement of small farmers and indigenous peoples. In particular she had visited regions which McDonald's have admitted as past or current sources of beef supplies for their 200 Brazilian stores. For example, she described areas of Mato Grosso (Sinop, Nova Xavantina, and Pontes e Lacerda), which McDonald's admitted had supplied them in the past (1979 - 1982), as areas she had witnessed being deforested for cattle ranches in the early 1980's.

McDonald's current use of cleared Amazonian rainforest land

Further, Ms Branford had visited areas in Goias State where McDonald's had admitted to the Defendants (in a statement from Roberto Morganti, the Director of McDonald's local hamburger manufacturers, Braslo Ltd) that they still obtain their beef - especially along the River Araguaia (which flows into the Amazon) and its tributaries. She had travelled extensively in this vast region (including towns named by Mr Morganti such as Jucara, Aruana, Britania, S. Miguel do Araguaia, Porangatu, Novo Mundo and Crixas etc) and testified that in the early 1970s it was an area of Amazonian tropical rainforest. Ms Branford had witnessed it being cleared and burned for cattle ranching from the mid-1970s up to the mid-1980s (with indigenous people being forced out). She said forest clearances continue, but at a slower pace.

Sue Branford's evidence was fully corroborated by a written submission from defence expert witness Professor Susanna Hecht (who has conducted extensive field research in the relevant regions) who added: "I am certain that a substantial proportion of cattle supplied to Cuiaba meat plants (1979 - 82) and to Goias Carne [which still supplies beef for McDonald's use] for the last 20 years up till now would have been cattle from rainforest areas".

This evidence, based on McDonald's own information which the Defendants finally forced the company to disclose after 3 years of legal applications, completely nails once and for all the Corporation's lies distributed to the public worldwide about never using any beef raised on ex-rainforest or recently-cleared ex-rainforest land.

exports to McDonald's UK
- In addition, Lord Vestey, Chairman of the Vestey Group Ltd (international meat export/import business), had been subpoena'ed by Helen Steel to require him to give evidence. The court had already heard much evidence about the import of five consignments of Brazilian beef from the Vestey plant at Barretos, Sao Paulo, for McDonald's UK stores in 1983/4 (see Trial News 2). Lord Vestey had been asked in 1984 by David Walker of McKey Ltd (at that time a subsidiary of McDonald's UK) to write a letter 'confirming' that the beef was not "coming from reclaimed land from destroyed rainforests". Lord Vestey delivered the requested letter in which he stated that the cattle supplied to the meat plant were not from any rainforest region. However, he admitted in the witness box that most of the cattle slaughtered at the Barretos plant were from untraceable sources, having previously been trucked into Sao Paulo State to be fattened up. He said: "We kill 200,000 cattle a year...approximately 10%..are ours [from company-owned ranches]." The rest "we have not any means of knowing where they have come from". Professor Hecht later testified in response: "In my opinion it is a certainty that a substantial proportion of such cattle would have been those which had been raised in former rainforest areas".

Further environmental and social problems of McDonald's supplies - The court heard that McDonald's Brazilian stores have also been supplied with beef from other regions where ranches have damaged the environment and caused the eviction of peasant farmers and indigenous peoples. Displacement of small farmers is recognised by McDonald's to be a major cause of rainforest destruction as they have little alternative but to move into the Amazon region to seek new land (by cutting the trees).

McDonald's told the court that their Brazilian stores (now numbering approximately 200) have been exclusively supplied since 1982 by Braslo Ltd using beef from slaughter houses (including those owned by Bordon, Frimondelli, Mataboi and Goias Carne) supplied with cattle raised in regions including Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo. (Company documents suggested previous dealings with Anglo Beef Ltd, who also had two plants within the official Amazon region).

Mr Cesca was questioned about land disputes in some of these states, particularly Mato Grosso do Sul, where indigenous people and peasant farmers have been evicted from their land to make way for cattle ranching. He denied knowledge of any land disputes in these regions but admitted that the company had not looked into this.

George Monbiot, a writer and academic who has researched Amazonian issues, testified for the Defence about the social and environmental destructiveness of cattle ranching in the regions supplying McDonald's Brazil. Fiona Watson (Campaigns Co-ordinator for Survival International) who has worked with and lobbied for indigenous peoples in Brazil, testified about the devastation of indigenous communities and culture by cattle ranching in areas of Mato Grosso do Sul which have been supplying McDonald's beef. Dr James Ratter, a world authority on biodiversity in Central and Amazonian Brazil, in a written submission for the Defence, outlined the extensive and tragic damage to the highly diverse and important Cerrado vegetation of Central Brazil. He stated: "The cerrado biome has received a formidable agricultural onslaught and has been much altered in the last 20 or so years." He estimated that about 800,000 square kms (40%) of the original cerrado area in Brazil has been destroyed.

Environmental Damage

Giving evidence about Costa Rica, Mr Cesca said "McDonald's opened the first of its restaurants in Costa Rica in December 1970" and that they had been supplied with meat by Co-op Montecillos since that time. "This meat comes from ranches in areas which were deforested in the 1950's and early 1960's". There are about a dozen stores in Costa Rica.

Richard Rampton QC (for McDonald's) admitted on the first day of the McLibel Trial: "In Costa Rica, when the first McDonald's restaurant was opened in 1970, some of the land on which the beef was raised had been rainforest up to the 1960's..", ie. destroyed less than 10 years before.

Mr Cesca was asked to disclose an official report (prepared for McDonald's) about Costa Rica. It identified cattle ranching as the principal cause of deforestation there. Other company documents revealed that 20% of beef used in McDonald's stores in Costa Rica was raised in the San Isidro region, an area which Mr Cesca accepted was originally 'wet and rain forest'. The other 80% came from Guanacaste and Peninsula de Nicoya regions, both areas of tropical 'dry forest' deforested, according to McDonald's Costa Rica chief, "in the '50s and early '60s". Maps obtained by the Defendants showed deforestation continuing in these regions up till the 1980's.

The Defendants further claimed that cattle ranching in these regions had led to land disputes and displacement of subsistence farming families, many of whom then had no alternative but to move into rainforest regions in other areas of the country, contributing to further deforestation.

Expert witness Jean Carriere, a Costa Rica research specialist, testified for the defence on the environmental damage caused by cattle ranching (whether for export or for local use) in inappropriate and recently deforested areas of the country, explaining that Costa Rican tropical forest loss has been among the highest of any country in the world over the last 20 years.

Beef from Former Tropical Forest

The General Manager of McDonald's local supplier for their stores in Guatemala (Procasa Ltd) admitted in his Statement that the beef supplied to McDonald's is from regions "deforested in the 1940s and early 1950s". Mr Cesca admitted these were tropical forests, but claimed they were not 'rainforests'. However, an internal company letter from McDonald's Guatemala to Mr Cesca recognised that the region was formerly rainforest. And confronted with a map drawn by conservation experts, Mr Cesca conceded that the area seemed to be formerly rainforest.

Ronald Cummins, a Defence expert who has conducted substantial research in Guatemala, stated that the country has serious problems of unequal land ownership, poverty, oppression of indigenous people, deforestation and rainforest destruction. In his view, these problems "are of course, interrelated and made worse by the intervention of fast food giants such as McDonald's in the [local] Guatemalan economy".

Rainforest Countries

At the start of the McLibel Trial, Richard Rampton QC (for McDonald's) claimed that no beef had ever been exported to McDonald's anywhere in the world from "rainforest countries".

Defence experts explained it was well established that Central American beef exports since the 1960's, in particular to the USA for the fast food industry, had caused the massive expansion of the cattle ranching industry and consequent damage to tropical forests.

McDonald's claims it has a policy in the USA of only using 'US beef' or 'Domestic beef'. The Defendants called evidence from three experts who have attacked the inadequacy of the US labelling system for imported beef which re-categorises imported beef as 'domestic' once it has been inspected at the port of entry. Mr Cesca denied this was the practice. The Defendants produced a US Department of Agriculture directive confirming their position, and also referred Mr Cesca to a letter from OSI (one of McDonald's five suppliers in the US) which admitted that there seemed to be some 'discrepancy' as to what constituted 'domestic' beef'. Mr Cesca asserted that McDonald's policy ensured control over the supply chain, but was prepared to accept the word of previous witness Robert Beavers (of the McDonald's Corporation Board of Directors) who had admitted that in the early/mid 1980's the company reduced its hamburger patty suppliers from 175 down to 5 because of lack of effective controls and an inability to 'police' their supply chain.

Mr Cesca admitted that McDonald's had never allowed any independent verification or inspection of its beef sources, and had never lobbied the authorities to improve the labelling system. The Defendants claimed that, despite the environmental devastation caused, the Corporation benefited from the way cheap, imported Central American beef helped to keep US beef prices down.

Charles Secrett, currently Executive Director of Friends of the Earth and the initiator of FoE's International Rainforest Campaign in 1985, gave expert evidence for the Defence about the importance and character of all tropical forests, and about efforts made to prevent their destruction. He told the court that he had initiated negotiations with McDonald's UK in November 1985 to see if the Corporation would co-operate in helping to "clear up...persistent and institutionalised confusion over the [US beef] certification process" in order to try to end the exports of Central American beef to the USA. He told the court it was a "statistical inevitability" that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, "during the 1970's and much if not all of the 1980's, beef from cattle reared on recently deforested tropical land in countries like Costa Rica was used by all the major fast food retailers in the US, including McDonald's". However, despite the company's claims of concern over the issue, McDonald's suddenly and unilaterally ended the negotiations and threatened legal action against anyone associating them with rainforest destruction. Mr Secrett told the court that he had not been informed by McDonald's UK at that time that the company had recently imported five consignments of Brazilian beef.

Mr Secrett further stated that the "McDonald's Corporation, as a global supplier of beef products to mass markets, must accept some responsibility for encouraging development and land-use pressures that result in the clearance of tropical forests."

Regarding Costa Rica beef exports, Sergio Quintana (the Sales Director of Co-op Montecillos in the 1980's, McDonald's local beef supplier in Costa Rica) was quoted by the Defendants from a filmed interview in 1983 (shown in court): "We export meat to the US. 70% of the meat goes to food production outlets such as restaurant chains like McDonald's..", and "We supply McDonald's and Burger King, and Wendys - they buy our meat". Mr Cesca denied this had ever happened, stating that the Corporation's "no imported beef" policy in the USA prevented it. However, he had no qualms about doing local business with Coop Montecillos, which he accepted was the largest exporter of beef from Costa Rica to the US in the 1980's. The Quintana interview had been filmed for the prize- winning TV documentary Jungleburger (made by German film director Peter Heller, shown in the UK by Channel 4 but then suppressed in this country after McDonald's sued for libel).

Arturo Wolf (the Assistant General Manager of FOGASA, a meat processing company which currently supplies beef patties for McDonald's stores in Costa Rica) was called from that country to give evidence for McDonald's. He had also been interviewed on camera for the Jungleburger film, shown in court. Other key players in the beef industry in Costa Rica and the USA were interviewed as well. Mr Wolf, who is from a Costa Rican ranching family, was at the time of filming, a manager at a US meat plant. He explained in the film that his plant imported beef from Costa Rica for fast food chains. He stated that after the film was released, he had talked to the others interviewed in the film and claimed they were upset about how it portrayed their industry. The witness stated that Alberto Amador Zamora, President of the Cattle Producers Federation, had told Mr Wolf that he himself had refused to even talk to the film director at the time. However, unbeknown to the witness, Mr Zamora had been interviewed (although he didn't appear in the film) and furthermore had implicated McDonald's in the export trade. The Defendants had already lodged with the court a transcript of the uncut interview with Zamora and the others, and also the signed legal authorisation forms whereby each witness (including Mr Wolf) verified they had freely given their true opinions for broadcast by film-maker Peter Heller. Mr Heller testified for the Defence as to the accuracy of the quotes.

As well as the exports to McDonald's in the UK (see earlier), Brazilian beef has also been exported for McDonald's use in Switzerland and Argentina in the 1990's (admitted by Dr Gomez Gonzales, McDonald's International Meat Purchasing Manager), and Uruguay (admitted by Mr Cesca).

Defence expert Ronald Cummins concluded: "If McDonald's, Burger King and other fast-food giants are sincere in wanting to preserve the environment in general, and tropical rainforests in particular, they should immediately call for:

(1) A ban on beef imports into North America from Central America;

(2) A halt in the expansion of North American style fast food restaurants into the third world;

(3) The promotion of sustainable, equitable, environmentally friendly agricultural policies (both in the North and South); and

(4) A change in the menus (healthier, less beef and meat-centred, locally and sustainably produced foods), advertising, marketing and purchasing practices of their own and other multinational food corporations."

Despite Tropical Forest Link

Brazilian exports of soya products, including for cattle feed, are controversial due to destruction of tropical forests for soya production, and for dispossession of hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers as new soya plantations are established. McDonald's have accepted that Germany in the 1980's was the main importer of Brazilian soya feed, most of which went to feed cattle in Bavaria - the source of McDonald's German beef supplies. (Statement of Dr Hans Schumm, McDonald's witness). German beef has also been regularly supplied for McDonald's UK use (as accepted by David Walker of McKeys).

Both George Monbiot and Professor Hecht gave evidence for the Defence on this issue. Mr Cesca accepted that Germany in the 1980's was the main importer of Brazilian soya feed, much of which was for cattle consumption. Mr Cesca also accepted that at some times of the year Brazilian soya feed 'swamped' the German feed market. He admitted that McDonald's were the largest users of beef in Germany and that their beef supplies would be 'typical' of the industry as a whole. The company had previously stated that no cattle used for their burgers in Germany had ever used any Brazilian soya feed.


Richard North, an Environmental Health Officer specialising in food hygiene and safety testified for the Defendants. He had made expert visits on their behalf to McKeys Ltd (McDonald's UK hamburger production factory) at Milton Keynes, to Sun Valley Poultry Ltd (McDonald's chicken products supplier) at Hereford,and to a local McDonald's store.

Mr North stated that the majority of reported food poisoning incidents are linked to eating meat, especially chicken and minced beef (e.g. for burgers). The high volume, intensive Sun Valley production system, he explained, "produced chicken meat with a salmonella burden of 25%, magnified from 1% in the live birds". Regarding the production of hamburgers, he criticised the results of bulking and blending meat used in beefburger production which "is such to maximise risk". He added that campylobacter organisms are widely present in both chicken and red meat and can cause disease, even in small quantities, unless eliminated by sufficient core temperatures in cooking. (McDonald's own expert on food safety, Colin Clarke, was not called by the company - his prepared statement, as read out by the Defendants, called on McDonald's to increase the minimum internal temperature calibrations for the cooking of burgers in their stores).

In Mr North's opinion, the cooking systems in McDonald's stores have "no defence in depth" and have to be maintained at all times "to overcome defects in an inherently unhygienic and fragile business". He cited the serious outbreak of E.Coli food poisoning at McDonald's Preston stores in 1991 as an example of weaknesses in the company's systems, and he noted Defence evidence of widespread staff inexperience, pressure of work and equipment problems (see Employment evidence). Mr North concluded that "the McDonald's chain in the UK continues to regard adherence to hygiene codes as more of a marketing tool than an issue of public safety".

Finally, Mr North explained that pesticides residues are an additional concern, in particular organophosphorous compounds (OPs) which attack human nervous systems and are undesirable in any quantities. He told how OPs have been used as part of widespread compulsory cattle pest treatment programs, and how official figures cite 40% of cows' milk samples testing positive for OP residues.

Marja Hovi gave evidence for the Defence on the hygiene concerns surrounding McDonald's food. She worked in 1994 as an experienced Official Veterinary Surgeon at Alec Jarret Ltd - an abattoir near Bristol that supplied McKey Foods, McDonald's UK sole supplier of hamburgers. She explained how she had been specially brought in by the local authority to sort out shortcomings at the slaughterhouse.

Ms Hovi described several discrepancies between official regulations and actual practice at the plant, including poor hygiene, improper inspection and higher than recommended storage temperatures - all of which could contribute to contamination and bacterial growth in McDonald's beefburgers. She was dismissed after refusing to bow to pressure to sign export certificates for the slaughterhouse's beef to verify (without the necessary back-up documents) it as coming from herds which had been 'BSE-free' for at least 6 years (as then required by European regulations).


Anne Link, the Science Co-ordinator of the Women's Environmental Network (currently sponsoring a waste minimisation bill in the UK Parliament), gave expert evidence for the Defence about the negative effects to the environment caused by McDonald's packaging. She was particularly concerned about dangerous chemicals and excessive amounts of energy used in production processes, and also about the damage caused by the disposal of discarded materials. She criticised the sheer volume of company packaging, much of it unnecessary, and the fact that McDonald's uses disposable items instead of reusables. They don't even recycle any customer waste. She said it is an internationally recognised aim to create a 'no waste society'. Referring to McDonald's official documents she concluded that the company "is waiting until forced to change by increasing environmental awareness", and "could be using its international structure to spread good environmental ideas rather than bad ones as at present".


About 40,000 employees work for the McDonald's chain in the UK, and over 1.5 million worldwide. The sort of jobs characterised by hard work, low pay, unsafe environment, no guaranteed hours and no Unions or rights have been popularly described as 'McJobs'. In Trial News 2, the evidence given by McDonald's executives and departmental heads from the USA and the UK was outlined. Over a number of months, the Defendants then called two dozen ex-employees and union activists (and many more from around the world gave evidence in writing) to tell the inside story of their own experiences.


Dave Turnbull, TGWU Food & Drink Workers Representative for London and the South East, informed the court about the low wages, poor conditions and high turnover in the catering industry. He explained that it is difficult for workers to organise and gain union recognition due to the nature of the industry and the hostility of employers to unions. Despite this, he said the TGWU had won representation, recognition and improvements in a number of companies, and he could see no reason why McDonald's workers should be denied such basic human rights.

Phil Pearson (an expert on industrial relations and workplace conditions) testified about low pay, high turnover and poor conditions at McDonald's and in the catering industry, and about the time he was refused entry to McDonald's stores as a TGWU Union official during a recruitment campaign. He also made an expert site visit to two McDonald's stores on behalf of the Defendants. He stated that, in 1992, when McDonald's were paying just over 3 pounds per hour, the New Earnings Survey defined 'low pay' as anything less than 5.52 pounds per hour - a 'decency threshold' set by the Council of Europe. (In 1996, the company still only paid 3.15 pounds). It seemed to him, as a former member of the now abolished catering industry Wages Council (which was a statutory body enforcing minimum wages and conditions for low-paid workers) that McDonald's failure to pay any overtime in the late 1980's was "apparently, from the figures [official McDonald's documents], systematic abuse, systematic underpayment ... non-application of the law". He added that "failure to pay the appropriate remuneration" was an offence "punishable by fine or imprisonment". According to official company documents, around a quarter of all the company's full time hourly-paid UK staff work overtime without extra pay.

Terry Pattinson (former Industrial Editor of the Daily Mirror) informed the court about an interview on 16th Dec 1986 with Sid Nicholson (at the time McDonald's Head of Personnel) who stated "We will never negotiate wages and conditions with a union and we discourage our staff from joining." Mr Pattinson testified further that Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) had stated much the same to him in conversations in May 1990.

Michael Mehigan, the owner of McDonald's stores in the Republic of Ireland since 1978, was questioned about the historic, partially-successful 1979 Dublin strike by McDonald's workers, which lasted 7 months and resulted in recognition of the union. The company had refused to recognise the union because "we didn't want to lose control of our business", he said. It was shown that after the strike, the company avoided meeting with the union and refused to give jobs back to prominent union activists. In 1985, two union activists took the company to the Rights Commissioner claiming unfair dismissal for union activity; the court ruled in their favour.

Shop stewards in the strike, Anne Casey and Sean Mrozek, came over from Ireland to tell how there had been discontent over low pay and poor conditions in their stores. And after the bitter strike ended with a labour court ruling that McDonald's should recognise the union, they told how the main union activists were nevertheless sacked or otherwise victimised for union activity.

Sarah Inglis, a Canadian worker, testified how in 1993 at the age of 16 she signed up a majority of the workers in her McDonald's store (Ontario) to a Union. In response, managers organised a bizarre and nationally controversial anti-union campaign, which included creating a climate of fear against pro-union staff, getting some of the workers in that store (the majority of whom were under 18) to lie outside in the snow forming the word 'NO' (to unions), putting on special anti-union video and slide shows, and temporarily allowing improved conditions in the run-up to an unsuccessful secret ballot in the store for union recognition. The court heard, according to the evidence of Defence witness Joel Henderson (pro-union crew member at the store), that after the ballot "things have returned to the slave-like working conditions that crew must endure every single shift that they work".

Mike Soriano came from the USA to testify how he, and other McDonald's workers, organised a majority of staff into a Union in a Chicago store in 1978 - as a way of countering poor pay and conditions. The court heard how the franchisee pulled out all the stops to harass Union activists, bring in 'sweeteners' for other staff and use legal tricks to prevent Union recognition.

Thomas Jenssen, a crew member in Norway who was elected union representative following a recent dispute and strike threat (which won union recognition) gave evidence for the Defence.

Hassen Lamti, a current McDonald's crew member in Lyon (France) and a trade union rep, related:

COLCHESTER - 'Store of the Year'

Simon Gibney (a former Manager of the Colchester McDonald's, 'Store of the Year' in 1987) laid bare the reality of McDonald's unethical, illegal and/or oppressive practices - watering down products, working amid sewage, illegal hours worked, obsession with cutting labour costs to the bone, and the fiddling of time cards. He also referred to the formation of "McDonald's Freedom Fighters".

Siamak Alimi, former crew member at Colchester, told of the high pressure of work at McDonald's, long hours (including 20 hour shifts!) with few breaks and low pay; of how workers under 18 worked illegal hours; and of how there were threats of the sack for joining a union or protests against in-store conditions.

Kevin Harrison worked in 1986/7 at McDonald's branches in Colchester and Ipswich as an assistant manager. Pressure to reduce costs all round led to the secret cutting of food servings and using out of date food. He criticised managers' use of 'hustle' to get work speeded up. "McDonald's", he stated, "is a very pressurised environment, and nowhere else are you expected to work at that level for such long periods of time". He complained that managers were encouraged to use their power over work schedules to discriminate and to foster compliance among crew. Mr Harrison told the court that an authoritarian 'them and us' attitude was created between crew and managers, which aimed to exploit crew members wherever possible. He left due to 'the job, the hours and mounting dissatisfaction with the company philosophy in general.'

Kate Harrison, who had worked at five different McDonald's stores, told the court about the harsh reality and the pressure of working, stating that crew members were often denied breaks in busy periods, and sometimes worked whole shifts without a break. At three of the stores, she witnessed under-18's working illegal hours. She recalled two occasions when sewage came up out of the drains into the kitchen but staff had to continue preparing and cooking food.

Ray Coton, the former Store Manager (from August 1987 to 1991) of Colchester McDonald's backed up the allegations made by Defence witnesses from the store (see above). He further explained how he was under continual pressure from McDonald's officials to boost profits, and how he eventually resigned as a result.


Andrew Cranna, former Assistant Manager of the West Ealing branch of McDonald's in the mid-1980's, gave evidence. He told of dictatorial management, employees afraid to criticise due to fear of "recriminations", how talking to the press was banned, work was "greasy and high pressure", of pressure from officials to achieve low labour cost targets, of how people could be sent home early to save money, of how "any active member of a union will not be tolerated", staff were "made to feel they were fully expendable" and if they fell out of favour would be discriminated against until they quit.

Iain Whittle related his experiences as a crew member at McDonald's store in Sutton from 1983-6. He portrayed McDonald's as an oppressive, anti-trade union company in which 'paranoid' managers competed to reduce staffing levels to save money. He described how managers' obsession with profit levels sometimes led to the sale of undercooked and unhygienic food.

Harriet Lamb, a researcher who gathered information by working at McDonald's Kentish Town in 1987, told how she contributed to a pamphlet Working For Big Mac about the reality of working conditions at McDonald's. The pamphlet's publishers were sued by the company, apologised in open court due to lack of funds, had to pulp the booklet, and then went bust. She said she stood by the contents of the work, despite the so-called 'apology'. She also wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper which was also sued and 'apologised'. Ms Lamb verified the contents of an interview which was taped with a manager in 1987 - he had criticised the company for being 'anti-Union', the job as 'demoralising' and pay as 'awful', and all "to make as much profit for the bigwigs as possible".

Michael Logan, a floor manager for a number of years at Bath McDonald's, told how he walked out in November 1994 due to understaffing, dangerous working conditions (including abuse of electrical safety), pressures to cut corners on food safety and other problems. He gave evidence of how scheduling was used as a tool of discrimination and discipline, how staff failed to get their breaks entitlement (backed up by official clockcard records obtained by the Defendants showing hundreds of infringements of the law), and how beef and chicken products were regularly served undercooked. Danny Olive, another floor manager at the store, told the court how he backed the evidence of Mr Logan and how he had also resigned some months later, submitting a detailed letter of complaint over conditions at the store.

Evidence has also been heard from a number of other Defence witnesses, ex- employees and trade union representatives from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, and also Dan Gallin, the General Secretary of the International Union of Foodworkers based in Geneva. All the Defence witness statements are available to be read in full on the 'McSpotlight' Internet website .


Legal Arguments
In April 1996, McDonald's were allowed to amend their Statement of Claim (their original case against Helen Steel and Dave Morris). Previously, McDonald's case regarding the distribution of the London Greenpeace 6-page Factsheet (subject of the libel action) had always been that the two Defendants were responsible for the handing out of the leaflet on a handful of specific occasions in 1989/90. McDonald's now claim that the Defendants, by virtue of their involvement in London Greenpeace, were responsible for the production and distribution of the Factsheet "wheresoever and whensoever" it had taken place! The Defendants were unsuccessful in their appeal against this ruling.

The Judge also ruled that the Defendants could amend their Defence to claim that, because McDonald's infiltrators had been actively involved in the group and had helped to circulate the Factsheet, McDonald's had consented to its distribution. However, the Judge disallowed the Defendants' amendment that McDonald's had consented to publication of the Factsheet by virtue of their failure to take any action to stop its distribution until over three and a half years after the company first became aware of it. (Contrary to their frequent claims in the media, McDonald's never wrote to London Greenpeace, nor to anybody involved with the group, about the Factsheet until they served writs on the Defendants in September 1990.) It should be noted that Veggies Ltd of Nottingham - the main publishers of the Factsheet since 1987 - were threatened with legal action by McDonald's in 1987. After negotiations between their respective solicitors, the company dropped the threats, accepting the continued distribution of the Factsheet with a couple of minor amendments. Veggies continued to circulate the Factsheet in bulk..

The Defendants also applied to join three of McDonald's 'enquiry agents' (see below) as 'third parties' to the action (effectively becoming co-defendants), due to their admissions of distributing the Factsheet. This would make them liable to contribute to the payment of any damages awarded against the Defendants (if they lose) by the Judge at the end of the case. The Judge ruled that the appropriate time for such a course of action would be after his verdict.

Meanwhile, also outstanding is the Defendants' Counterclaim against McDonald's UK (issued in 1994) - for distributing 300,000 leaflets and press releases on the eve of the trial (and later) attacking Helen and Dave for circulating 'lies'. This Counterclaim for libel runs concurrently with McDonald's Claim, and McDonald's have been put to prove that the Factsheet was distributed by the Defendants since 1990, that its contents are false and that the Defendants knew this! The company has publicised the so-called 'apologies' of three people who were named on the original writs and who pulled out - but one of the three, Paul Gravett, appeared for the Defence and told the court: "I made the apology because at the time we were given legal advice that ... we would never get the case to court because we did not have the financial resources to do so, we could not get Legal Aid ... it was unthinkable to fight a libel case on your own. We would be liable for costs and whatever damages the Judge decided and we could be bankrupted. That is what we were told and that is why I apologised." He added that he stood by the Factsheet as being accurate.

Keeping Tabs on Protestors
Terry Carroll, Head of Security of McDonald's UK since 1984, gave evidence about protests against the company. Prior to joining McDonald's, Mr Carroll had spent 30 years in the Metropolitan Police, reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent.

As Head of Security, Mr Carroll said he regularly sent out instructions to all McDonald's branches on what steps to take when the stores were picketed. This included advice that wherever possible photographs should be taken of protestors and these should be sent to regional headquarters along with copies of any leaflets obtained. Mr Carroll stated that prior to the company's regionalisation in 1990/91 all reports and photographs of demonstrations had been sent to him. The purpose of this was to try to identify if there was a "hard core" of people carrying out protests all around the country. He said the company discovered that, in fact, protests were generally local people picketing their local branch. He said "literally hundreds" of leaflets had been sent to him and that so many came in that the files became "unwieldy". He stated that no legal action stemming from these files had ever been taken against protestors.

A report written by Mr Carroll about a protest outside McDonald's HQ on 16th October 1989 (World Day of Action against McDonald's), and sent to Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President), had stated "I obtained photographs of all of the demonstrators and I will have them identified in due course". Quizzed about this, Mr Carroll said he had intended to have them identified "through whatever sources I could". He admitted that personal information about protestors had been relayed to him by a Special Branch Officer who was present at the demonstration.

Sid Nicholson (McDonald's UK Vice President) formerly in charge of Personnel and Security, testified for the second time in the trial (see Trial News 2 for his evidence on employment conditions). Mr Nicholson joined McDonald's in 1983 as Head of Security. Prior to this he had spent 31 years in the police force, firstly in South Africa, and then in the Metropolitan Police, reaching the rank of Chief Superintendent.

Mr Nicholson admitted that a month prior to the October '89 picket, he had had a secret meeting at McDonald's Head Office with two members of Special Branch where he obtained information about people involved with London Greenpeace. He confirmed that during the picket of McDonald's HQ on October 16th 1989, two Special Branch agents were in attendance, one of whom stood with him passing on information about protestors. Company documents revealed that McDonald's continued to receive information from Special Branch until at least 1994.

Mr Nicholson stated that McDonald's security department "are all ex-policemen", and had a great many contacts in the police from whom they may get information about protestors. He also admitted that the company had subscribed to the Economic League which he described as an organisation which existed "to defend multinationals and the interests of multinationals". He said that McDonald's had received information from the Economic League about London Greenpeace and the Transnationals Information Centre, who published Working for Big Mac, and said that "we may very well have got reports on union activity". [N.B. The Economic League kept a 'blacklist' of 'subversives' - political or trade union activists - gleaned from various sources, which subscribers could use to vet prospective employees. It was the subject of great controversy in the late 80's/early 90's and has since closed down.]

Infiltration and
Dirty Tricks
Mr Nicholson was questioned in detail about the steps taken by the company against London Greenpeace and other critics. He admitted that, in 1989 when considering legal action against the small environmental collective, McDonald's had hired two private investigation agencies - Kings Investigation Bureau and Bishops (part of Westhall Services) - to infiltrate the group. A total of at least seven agents participated in the group for varying lengths of time between October 1989 and Spring 1991. Mr Nicholson further admitted that approximately four of the seven spies remained in the group after writs were served on the Defendants in order to monitor the response.

One of the 'enquiry agents', Mr Brian Bishop, gave evidence about twelve of the meetings and events he had attended on behalf of McDonald's, between mid-May and the end of September 1990. He confirmed he had "manned" a stall, some of the time on his own, at a "well attended" public event, where, he said, "to the best of my knowledge" the anti-McDonald's Factsheet was available for the public to take away.

At the first meeting he had attended, Mr Bishop had noted that the windows in the then London Greenpeace office "had no security locks" and that "I imagine [the next door office] is occupied 24 hours a day". Questioned as to the relevance of such information Mr Bishop denied that it was there to give advice to anybody interested in getting into London Greenpeace's office to burgle them. He did however admit to taking a letter about McDonald's which had been sent to London Greenpeace, and said he had passed it on to the detective agency.

A second 'enquiry agent', Mr Allan Clare who had been employed by McDonald's to infiltrate London Greenpeace, also admitted taking several letters sent to the group, although he claimed to have returned them after making photocopies for McDonald's use. He admitted to breaking into London Greenpeace's office and taking photographs in there, stating "the door lock on the office to London Greenpeace was basically not very strong and it was decided by me and my principals that entry to it would not be a problem"..... "I used a phone card to swipe the lock". Mr Clare attended at least 19 meetings of London Greenpeace. He admitted sending out anti-McDonald's leaflets including the Factsheet.

Another 'enquiry agent', Mr Roy Pocklington, said he had attended at least 26 meetings and events of LGP between October 1989 and June 1990. Questioned by Mr Rampton QC as to the group's attitude to McDonald's, Mr Pocklington said "The group felt that McDonald's were somewhat sinister, somewhat exploitative, and their attitude was one of disgust and dislike for McDonald's". He said that people in the group appeared sincere in their beliefs. He said that the group was friendly and open but that in order to continue attending meetings he felt "it would be beneficial to show willing and help out where I could in the office". He had therefore volunteered to help answer letters sent to the group, including on one occasion spending 8 hours in the Greenpeace office writing replies, and enclosing anti-McDonald's leaflets, including the anti-McDonald's Factsheet.

Mr Pocklington agreed that he had pre-arranged to leave meetings talking to certain individuals in order that they could be followed home, and that he had provided a parcel of baby clothes for Mr Morris' son, in "an attempt to discover Mr Morris' address".

McDonald's Agent Appears for the Defence

Throughout the case McDonald's had refused to identify more than the four 'enquiry agents' they were calling as witnesses. However, after the Defendants obtained and served a statement by Frances Tiller, another agent, McDonald's had had to admit that in fact the group had been infiltrated by at least seven agents. Ms Tiller gave evidence for the Defence on 28th June, the second Anniversary of the trial, and by co-incidence the sixth anniversary of the first London Greenpeace meeting she had infiltrated. She testified that "I felt very uncomfortable doing that particular job", "I did not like the deception, prying on people and interfering with their lives". "I did not think there was anything wrong with what the group was doing" she said, adding: "I believe people are entitled to their views".